Cyborgs and Enhancement Technology
1. Cyborgs and Prostheses
1.1. Medical Necessity Creates Cyborgs
1.2. Enhancements, Thought Control, and Communication
1.3. Computational Skin
1.4. Body Hackers and Implantable Sensors
1.5. Vision Enhancements
2. Brain Enhancements and Neuroprosthesis
3. Towards “New Senses”
4. Modifying Memory
5. Conclusions and Future Directions
Conflicts of Interest
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|Enhancement Type/Category||Description||Significant Example|
|I. General External Enhancements to the Body|
|Prostheses to Replace or Restore Lost Functions|
Prostheses are becoming more controllable through the use of control theory principles, and are integrally connected to the body, upgradable, and under some circumstances controlled by thought via a brain–computer interface (which may or may not be wireless).
|Limb Prostheses to Restore Mobility||Artificial limb replacement with multiple degrees of freedom, more and more controllable by thought|
|Retinal Prosthesis to Restore Vision||Rectify visual sense degradation; provide enhancement to visual sense|
|Cochlear Implant to Restore Hearing||Improve auditory sensitivity, the implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin|
|Computing Attachment as Enhancement|
Increasing our computational resources through technology directly integrated with our bodies allows us to scale our capabilities, senses, and interaction with our environment and with external technology. Insomuch as wearable computing integrates with our senses and responds to our thoughts, it represents a significant move towards becoming a cyborg.
|Computing Device Worn by the Body||Extraneous computing directly integrated with prosthetic part|
|Direct-interface wearable computing, such devices allow information to be projected into the world whenever and wherever it is needed|
|Computing Grafted onto the Body||Attached computing device providing sensory input|
|Attached computing not directly integrated with the brain but accessible by the user and others with wireless capability|
|Epidermal Enhancement||Epidermal printed circuits on the surface of the skin|
|Attached via surface|
|II. Enhancement Technology Implanted Within Body|
Cyborg technology implanted within the body, such technology might not interact with the body through a feedback loop but be worn by the body, either collecting or storing information.
|Radio Frequency (RF) or Wi-Fi Subcutaneous Technology||Programmable storage/transmitter implanted under the skin|
|Interactive implanted chips/LEDs|
Implants with closed-loop feedback coupled with computational capabilities providing medical information, technological interaction, and extra-sensory input.
|Biometric Sensors||Closed-loop measurement systems|
|Open-loop measurement systems|
|Non-Medical Functional Implants||Extra-sensory detection|
|Functional computational implants|
|Interfacing with Nervous System|
This class of implants are more thoroughly integrated with the body and provide higher levels of integration with the wearer. Through this integration, the feedback loops their systems create can be considered artificial extensions of our own body’s.
|Direct Nervous System Interfacing||Nerve to nerve and nerve to machine communication|
|Recreating Sensation||Computer generated sensation transmitted to nerves|
|III. Brain Enhancement or Modification|
Technologies that directly interface with the brain are the height of cyborg integration. This first class deals with interfaces with the least specificity, generally used to suppress large groups of neuron clusters affected by disease.
|Suppressing Neuron Activity||Implants to control neuron groups|
|External brain stimulation|
|Reading the Mind|
To interface with the brain, technology is required to observe neuron activity and technology is required to affect specific neuron groups. Neuron activity is first measured, then translated by a computer, and finally sent as some form of output, the most compelling of which are affective of other neuron groups—that is, a direct mind link. Telepathy, new sensations, and expanded senses are all resultant technologies from this area of cyborg enhancement.
|Interacting with Technology||Linking thoughts of movement with limbs|
|Modifying the Brain||Linking thoughts between subjects|
|Linking sensory areas between subjects|
The specificity required to read and create neuron activity in relation to senses and thought can also be applied to memory, the recursive core of the human self. Cyborg technologies that influence memory can create and dismantle identity as well as cure degenerative disease, assist in learning, and expand knowledge bases.
|Memory Encoding||Aid in memory creation|
|Aid in memory retrieval|
|Memory Content||Memory modification|
|IV. Exoskeletons and Mobility Aids|
|Prostheses of Heightened Function|
While not technically separate in cyborg classification from ‘normal’ prostheses, these prostheses tend to be more non-anthropomorphic, have reduced thought control functions, and have more specific design specifications intended to enhance certain abilities.
|Sports Prostheses||Provide performance greater than the biological analogues’|
Technology designed around existing limbs to increase mobility. These enhancements can greatly increase our natural capabilities or restore lost functionality. All are closed-loop feedback systems with the body, and, in addition, the powered exoskeletons contain computational systems which increase their level of cyborg enhancement.
|Unpowered||Mechanical extensions of limbs towards performance goal|
|Powered Load Reinforcement||Power-assisted leg exoskeletons designed to take loads off wearer|
|Powered Mobility Assist||Powered and computer controlled leg exoskeletons for walking|
© 2017 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Barfield, W.; Williams, A. Cyborgs and Enhancement Technology. Philosophies 2017, 2, 4. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2010004
Barfield W, Williams A. Cyborgs and Enhancement Technology. Philosophies. 2017; 2(1):4. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2010004Chicago/Turabian Style
Barfield, Woodrow, and Alexander Williams. 2017. "Cyborgs and Enhancement Technology" Philosophies 2, no. 1: 4. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2010004